The joint communiqué from last week’s North/South Ministerial Council Inland Waterways meeting is now available here. There was an exciting bit:
2. Ministers had a discussion on various priorities within their remit and noted that these will be contained in a report to be considered at a future NSMC Institutional meeting as part of the ongoing review into sectoral priorities.
Hmm … what’s cooking there? I do wonder why the NSMC bothers publishing content-free stuff like this. We may have to ask the US NSA to bug the meetings. Oh, hang on ….
Here’s a good bit, though:
PRESENTATION BY WATERWAYS IRELAND
3. Waterways Ireland delivered a presentation to Ministers entitled “Ireland’s Inland Waterways – Building a Tourism Destination”. The presentation provided an overview of the progress being made by Waterways Ireland in placing the waterways and the waterway experience at the centre of the tourism offering both in Ireland and internationally.
Now that is useful and important work. But, as I have pointed out elsewhere [including to Waterways Ireland], the WI draft Corporate Plan 2014–2016 said nothing about tourism. Some years ago, I thought that it was a mistake to have a Marketing & Communications Strategy and a Lakelands tourism initiative that seemed to exist outside the corporate planning process; I am still of the same mind.
I have asked Waterways Ireland for a copy of the presentation, and for a copy of the Strategic Development Plan for the Grand Canal Dock, Spencer Dock and Plot 8 that was mentioned in WI’s progress report. That report also covered:
- continuing maintenance
- public consultation on canal bye-laws
- a Built Heritage Study and a GIS-based navigation guide for the Lower Bann
- an environmental award for work in restoring, protecting and promoting the heritage assets that are Spencer Dock and Grand Canal Dock
- towpath development and work on the cycleway from Ashtown to Castleknock on the Royal
- donating two barges for “recreational and community use”
- “partnerships to utilise three unused navigation property for community and recreational use”, which I don’t know anything about.
The important part was this:
BUSINESS PLAN AND BUDGETS 2013 AND 2014 AND CORPORATE PLAN 2014-2016
5. Ministers noted the position with the 2013 Business Plan and budget. They also noted that Waterways Ireland has undertaken a public consultation on the draft Corporate Plan 2014-2016, the preparation of a draft 2014 Business Plan by Waterways Ireland and that the plans will be reviewed after the public consultation is analysed. They also noted that Sponsor Departments will continue to work together with Waterways Ireland to finalise the Business Plans and Budgets for 2014 and the Corporate Plans for 2014-2016 that will be brought forward for approval at a future NSMC meeting.
I read that as showing that the north-south deadlock continues. The 2012 accounts have still not been published and the plans for 2014 won’t be approved until (at the earliest) three quarters of the way through the year.
The NSMC heard something about the Clones Sheugh but has decided not to tell the citizenry anything about it. It agreed to some property disposals and decided to meet again in October. But there was one odd item:
SPECIAL EU PROGRAMMES BODY BUSINESS PLAN AND BUDGET 2014 AND CORPORATE PLAN 2014-16
8. Ministers approved the Special EU Programmes Body Business Plan and Budget 2014 and Corporate Plan 2014-16.
The oddity is that the SEUPB is a separate body and usually gets its own meeting and communiqué. The last six meetings (before this one) have been attended by NI folk from Finance & Personnel and RoI folk from Public Expenditure & Reform (or, before that, Finance).
So who let spending ministers into the sweetshop? And why? Suspicious-minded folk might think that there is a plan to nick a lot of Euroloot for the Clones Sheugh to get the Irish government off the hook persuade the Europeans of the benefits of investing in the reconstruction of a small portion of the Ulster Canal. We note that, on the previous day, Jimmy Deenihan gave a longer than usual reply to the standard question about the Sheugh, including this:
The Inter-Agency Group has met four times, last meeting on 9 December 2013. The Group continues to examine leveraged funding opportunities for the project. This includes the exploration of EU funding which may be potentially available in the next round of structural funds covering the period 2014–2020.
I have a better idea. Vladimir? There are oppressed Russians in Clones ….